While their creative colleagues may welcome opportunities to use iPhones and iPads to deliver newfangled ads, researchers are somewhat stymied by the company. A new white paper from the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), which seeks to offer a roadmap to develop a gauge for ad effectiveness across platforms, notes that Apple could be a bump in the road.
Data shows 25% of the smartphones in the U.S. are from Apple, while the number of tablets in the market are almost entirely from the company. Yet, as researchers look to incorporate mobile usage into their ROI blenders, Apple has not permitted measurement companies to use meters to track them.
With Apple a critical player in the mobile arena, that's a major trouble spot in finding a way to track consumption across multiple screens. Besides the sheer number of Apple devices out there, Apple users tend to be early adopters and research without their behaviors could be flawed.
So, the authors of the new CIMM report recommend the coalition use its force to bring Apple into the fold.
"An organization like CIMM can use its collective bargaining power to encourage Apple to become a more integrated piece of the media ecosystem rather than its own walled garden," they write.
CIMM is an impressive coalition of media companies such as NBC Universal and Time Warner; agencies such as GroupM and IPG's Mediabrands; and marketers such as PepsiCo and Unilever. The white paper or report was written by Michele Madansky, a Ph.D., who headed research at Yahoo before becoming a consultant, and Kathryn Koegel, who worked at Phase2Media and DoubleClick before becoming a consultant.
While Apple may stonewall research firms such as Nielsen or comScore, Madansky and Koegel write that CIMM should pursue alliances with Google. The ocmpany's Android (mobile phones) and Honeycomb (tablets) operating systems are "as close as possible to the user experience of Apple devices and thus a viable workaround in the integration of mobile device usage," Madansky and Koegel write.
The authors also suggest that, with both companies needing bridges to the ad community, a relationship with one could spur the other to cooperate.
On a broader level, the white paper begins the lengthy process of CIMM looking to help nudge the industry toward a single-source metric linking ad exposure to purchases. Jane Clarke, CIMM managing director, said she would push for testing of a system that tried to link the impact of ad exposure of two media sources -- TV and online -- with purchasing behavior, likely in the consumer packaged goods category.
"Let's start to put the pieces in place, let's get the building blocks," she said.
(The white paper is accessible here.)
With the white paper, CIMM has put out an RFP searching for measurement companies to help develop a cross-media, single-source system. Separately, CIMM will host a free ARF Webcast on Aug. 3 to present findings from the white paper with Madansky speaking.
One issue in developing a widely accepted cross-platform system is that media companies, agencies and marketers may be on different paths -- there is an element of politics involved. Media companies, for example, aren't exactly thrilled they are often called on to pay for the research and the results may not be favorable to them. "They would like to develop new learnings but cannot if they are unsure of the outcomes," the white paper said.
The report also noted that the traditional "opportunity to see" (OTS) cross-platform measurement approach is flawed. Among the issues is that digital media is measured differently than other platforms, making "apples to apples" comparisons tough. Another is the difficulty in persuading people to take part in online surveys, most notably young males.
Besides OTS, researchers also rely on lab-based testing - which ESPN conducts in Texas and CBS in Las Vegas -- and the authors write that some researchers prefer the method for reasons that include a better chance to recruit hard-to-reach demos. Still, lab testing has challenges, such as cost and "the lab environment -- no matter how much it is designed to look like the prototypical American living room - is an artificial one."
There is a third methodology where Nielsen IAG uses a panel (rewardtv.com) that has recently added a cross-platform initiative that attempts to compare ad impact on people only watching TV, against those coming across an ad on TV and online.
The authors recommend studies be developed to compare the OTS and lab-based measurement avenues, not necessarily to gauge which is more accurate, but "whether there are consistent biases by technique that can be accounted for."
They suggest "side-by-side" studies for between three and five advertisers using the same ROI metrics.